Jamestown North Carolina Half Stock Rifle Made by J.F. Ledbetter
Jamestown North Carolina Half Stock Rifle Made by J.F. Ledbetter – According to author and historian, C. Michael Briggs, who has made a study of what is called the Jamestown School of gun-making: “The Jamestown School made over 20,000 long-rifles from 1840-80,” Briggs mentions that there were nine schools of gun making from 1765-1810, in North Carolina; the Jamestown School became the predominant, indigenous gun makers from 1810-1902. “These guns were extremely well-made. By 1840, Jamestown basically put everyone else out of business,” wrote Briggs, who has authored three books, “The Long Rifle Makers of Guilford County”, “The Long Rifle Makers of Forsyth County and Davidson County”, and “Piedmont North Carolina Banded Power Horns and Hunting Bags”. Briggs has identified 87 men who were gunsmiths, gun-stockers or apprentices (many became gunsmiths) from 1795-1902. He was responsible for the placement of a marker in Gibson Park along the Greenway honoring the local gunsmiths. These names include Thaddeus Gardner, William Lamb, H.C. Lamb, Henry Wright, Anderson Lamb, Jabez Stephen, Fletcher Merritt, Evan Johnson and Judd Franklin Ledbetter. These guns were predominantly hunting rifles, and as local historian Fred Hughes wrote, in 1988, in Guilford County, N.C., a Map Supplement, “This gun was not made for royalty and aristocracy; it was made for the ordinary citizen, the ‘Joseph Tater- diggers’ and Thomas ‘Corn-shuckers’ of the nineteenth century, the backbone of America. It was a simple gun, solid, durable, dependable, and above all, it was accurate.” Gunsmiths signed most of their pieces, usually with initials, but often with complete names and town of origin. Rifles from the Jamestown School can be identified by several distinctive characteristics, most notably the initials or signature of the gun maker inscribed into the barrel, a three-screw tang, a high cone on the stock, no button to push to open the patch box (if present) and at least one, usually two brass dovetails holding a German silver, front sight. All of these features are not present on every Jamestown rifle, however. By the late 18th century, European settlers came to North Carolina to what would become Jamestown. Many were Quaker families who moved to the area from Pennsylvania in search of productive farmland. By 1800, Jamestown was a bustling settlement of 150 residents with its own post office, inn and Free Mason’s lodge. Around this same time, gold was discovered near Jamestown, and several mines profited until the California gold rush frenzy shut down local efforts. In addition to farming and related industries, Jamestown was home to a gun factory and numerous, skilled gunsmiths, all involved in the manufacture of a sturdy and accurate muzzle-loading gun known as the “Jamestown Rifle,” the mainstay of Jamestown’s industry through the latter half of the 19th century and a highly prized collectible among gun enthusiasts today. This example of the famed Jamestown rifle is in overall fine, untouched condition. It retains a pleasing brown, plum patina finish; the fine walnut stock remains in a wonderful, untouched state, with only a very small repaired spot on the right toe of the butt stock. Inlaid into the stock are several geometric, coin silver, decorative designs. As Briggs notes, some prominent features that appear on most Jamestown rifles are present: a long barrel tang, secured by 3 screws; a German silver front sight secured by two, brass dovetailed mortises; a die stamped, brass escutcheon, inset into the stock on the side opposite to the lock plate reads: “Address / J Ledbetter / Jamestown. N.C.”; the stock is rather delicately configured with a high comb and prominent cheek piece, indicative of pre-civil war era manufacture. This rifle’s lock plate is marked “Leman / Lanctr. PA”, indicative that most lock plates were usually an out-sourced component as many makers did not build their own locks. This lock plate was manufactured by the famed Pennsylvania gunsmith, Henry Leman, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The rifle’s action is functional. As often found in these rifles, are double set-triggers. The butt plate trigger guard, nose cap and ramrod ferrules are all brass. The rear sight is a standard, non-adjustable v-type, hunting sight; the front sight is a characteristic German silver, single blade. The rifle is approximately .36 to .40 caliber, with a heavy, octagonal, rifled barrel, 39.75” in length (from start of tang to muzzle); the rifle is 55” in overall length; the original, oak ramrod is present, but has been repaired. This Jamestown rifle is truly a superior example of fine North Carolina, early 19th century gun crafting.